Tag Archives: whack-a-mole

Of Moles and Whacking: “Mojib Latif predicted two decades of cooling”

Or: Journalists should report what climate science actually “says”, rather than what they mistakenly “believe” it to say – Part II

In Part I we looked at some issues relating to climate science that the Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy” Eric Berger was mistaken about and had blamed “climate scientists” for. And while pointing out that it isn’t particularly fair for Mr. Berger to blame climate scientists for his misunderstandings, it would also be unfair to say that his confusion was his fault alone.

Fred Pearce wrote a recent column for New Scientist claiming climate modeler Mojib Latif predicted that up to two decades of cooling were coming: “We could be about to enter one or even two decades of cooler temperatures, according to one of the world’s top climate modellers.” Pearce’s claim was promptly picked up by the denialosphere and has been cited by “skeptics” as well as those who believe climate science is undergoing some sort of shake up, like Mr. Berger. Pearce’s story is greatly misleading both in terms of what Latif actually said and the role climate scientists believe natural variability plays in the climate system. Continue reading

Of moles and whacking: “Climate models didn’t predict this lack of warming”

Or: Journalists should report what climate science actually “says”, rather than what they mistakenly “believe” it to say – Part I

Not everyone who writes misleading or confused stories on climate change does so for the partisan reasons that the Jonah Goldberg’s of the world do. Sometimes the writer is simply incorrect about what the science says, and his or her errors are made in perfectly good faith. Such problems often arise when the writer mistakes the “conventional wisdom” or individuals’ opinion on climate change for what the science actually says. A case in point is a recent column by the Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy”, Eric Berger, entitled “Climate scientists should talk about what ‘may’ happen, rather than what ‘will’ happen”. Predictably, the post is being lauded in the denialosphere.

It appears that Mr. Berger has made some unfortunate assumptions about climate science that turn out not to be supportable. Finding these assumptions to be mistaken, Mr. Berger disappointingly chooses to blame climate scientists instead of digging a little deeper into his misconceptions to see where he went awry. Doing so ourselves may help illuminate not only how and why Mr. Berger came to such unsupportable conclusions, but also how we can avoid doing so in the future. Continue reading

Of moles and whacking: “Global warming is caused by cosmic rays”

The denialosphere is a desperate sort of place. In it, you’ll hear whoppers like “humans aren’t responsible for the increase in carbon” or even sillier, “CO2 isn’t a pollutant, it’s life!” Every once in a while, however, there arises an argument that isn’t quite so absurd on its face which may require a bit of doing to debunk.

For years, Henrik Svensmark has championed the idea that the current warming can largely be attributed to the variance of cosmic rays and subsequent reduction of cloud nuclei- a hypothesis that has been slightly inconvenienced by the lack of supporting evidence. You can read a succinct and rather amusing take down in Gavin Schmidt’s review of  Svensmark’s book for Physics World.

Back in April, a study published in ERL by Sloan and Wolfendale put the matter to rest for the few rational proponents of the theory that remained. However most lunatic denialists like Senator Jim “[global warming is the] greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” Inhofe aren’t rational people, and the good Senator has propped this little mole back up once more (“cosmic rays” appears at least 25 times in his latest round of FUD).

Unfortunately for Inhofe, his timing couldn’t be worse, as a further debunking of the idea has recently been published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The study, led by Jon Egill Kristjánsson, went further than Sloan and Wolfendale’s paper from earlier this year and examined MODIS data since 2000 allowing the team to examine cloud factors in addition to cover such as droplet size, depth, and water content. The study concludes:

The overall conclusion, built on a series of independent statistical tests, is that no clear cosmic ray signal associated with Forbush decrease events is found in highly susceptible marine low clouds over the southern hemisphere oceans. Whether such a signal exists at all can not be ruled out on the basis of the present study, due to the small number of cases and because the strongest Forbush decrease events indicate slightly higher correlations than the average events… For the ongoing global warming, however, the role of galactic cosmic rays would be expected to be negligible, considering the fact that the cosmic ray flux has not changed over the last few decades…

Of course, a lack of observable evidence has yet to prove a limiting factor for denialists’ claims. For the rest of us, though, this is yet another nail in the coffin of the cosmic ray argument.

[LATE, LATE UPDATE: New study again refutes the alleged causation.]

Image courtesy of Flickr user “Eyes Closed” used under Creative Commons

Of moles and whacking: “Alarmists stopped using global warming in favor of climate change”

NASA’s shiny JPL climate change site has a new post up that does a decent if incomplete job of pushing back against this particular myth.

Image from NASA JPL’s Global Climate Change site

It hits the right initial points, giving a brief background on the usage of the terms. Climate change and global warming have both been used to describe what is happening, from Wally Broecker’s 1975 Science article “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”, to the 1979 Charney Report, (I would add as well the 1988 creation of the IPCC and the 1992 creation of the UNFCCC, both of which have “climate change” in their names).

This is of course the case because there are anthropogenic changes to the climate apart from increased surface warming (e.g. aerosol and particulate cooling, ocean acidification), and anthropogenic warming affects changes to the climate beyond increased surface temperatures (e.g. changes in precipitation norms).

However, this isn’t the whole story. Continue reading

Of moles and whacking: CO2 is “Life”, plant food, not a pollutant, etc. – Part I

One of the more roundly mocked (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, here) strategies to fight the regulation of greenhouse gases and CO2 in particular, was the Competitive Enterprise Institute‘s push to revive the Greening Earth Society meme that far from being a pollutant, CO2 is in fact a necessary component of life. This talking point has been around for quite some time, and exists in several incarnations. The message remains the same, however: “no matter what those crazy environmental wackos say, CO2 is Grrrrreat!

Would this little girl lie to you? No, but apparently CEI will.

Continue reading

Of moles and whacking: Oregon Petition, Redux

It seems the Oregon Petition has finally reared its ugly head again. The “think tank” (is there a word for the juvenile stage of a think tank?) responsible went so far as to rent out a room at the National Press Club in order to tout its release. As yet, it doesn’t seem to be getting any traction in the mainstream press, which is a pleasant surprise. So why the re-release of a “petition” that has been so widely ridiculed for the last decade? It seems as though there have been some new additions to the list in response to their mailing in October of last year…

Continue reading